Church unity with a global focus: lessons from 'bishop school'

Church unity with a global focus: lessons from 'bishop school'

Bishops attend a Mass of Canonization in St. Peter's Square, Oct. 18, 2015. Credit: Martha Calderon/CNA.
Bishops attend a Mass of Canonization in St. Peter's Square, Oct. 18, 2015. Credit: Martha Calderon/CNA.

.- The Vatican holds a special seminar series each year for new bishops to help them learn their new role.

Among these new bishops was Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, the vicar apostolic of Istanbul.

For him, the seminar had a singular focus. It “teaches all of us bishops to look at the Church in its entirety,” he told CNA.
 
“The seminar mostly focuses on one, reiterated issue: we must understand that the Church is simply one,” Bishop Tierrablanca recounted. “We, the bishops of local Churches, are not called to merely focus only on our local Churches, while not taking care of other situations. We are called to look at the entire Church.”

A Franciscan originally hailing from Mexico, Bishop Tierrablanca has lived in Istanbul since 2003. He was appointed apostolic vicar for Istanbul in April.

He came to Rome for the annual seminar for new bishops Sept. 10-18.

The annual gathering of newly appointed bishops in Rome is “a meeting to reconfirm our union with Rome, and to understand that the Church is always the Church, no matter where local communities are,” the bishop explained.
 
The schedule of the seminar was quite tight: three meetings per day, plus an audience with Pope Francis Sept. 16.
 
The seminar series for new bishops first began in 2001. It aims to provide all the new bishops guidelines and tools to better fulfill the requirements of their new position.
 
“We were informed about the current situation of the Church, we were given indications about how to work. We are provided guidelines in theology and liturgy and we are taught about how to live and administer a diocese and how to be in relation with the clergy and the people of God,” Bishop Tierrablanca said.
 
He then added that because the Roman Curia is undergoing reform and renewal, bishops must be aware of how things are changing.

“It is not just a matter of how much we are renewing the structure (of the Church). Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, celebrated a Mass for us and said in his homily that the real reform is a spiritual one.”
 
Concerning the Curia reform, the new bishops were informed about the services of the dicasteries and how they are being re-shaped.

“As bishops, we often merely refer to the Congregation of Bishops, or to the Congregation for the Eastern Church, or to the Evangelization of People, that are the dicasteries to which we are subject. But we don’t think about other dicasteries, though they are very important.”
 
For example, he found an important resource in the new Secretariat for Communications.

“When we want to communicate something, we often use the channel of the parish bulletin, but we do not reach a great audience.” He explained bishops can use the secretariat “to give more visibility to our work, which is the work of the Church in the world.”
 
Among the pastoral training includes help for bishops on how to spread the gospel with joy.
 
Bishop Tierrablanca cited the joyous themes of the titles of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortations Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia.

“Emphasis is put on the fact that the message must give joy,” he said. “That means that every bishop or shepherd is called to express how joyful the Gospel is, and in this way we get closer to people.”
 
He said that this is particular important in Turkey, where Christians are a minority and where churches are not allowed to be visible on the streets.
 
“It is important to get in touch with another person in a friendly and open way, and live a transparent life. Thanks to this testimony of life, you can get closer to those who are not Christians,” Bishop Tierrablanca said.
 
In the end, the gathering of bishops reinforced the bond between local bishops and the Pope.
 
“Sometimes we think that being with Rome is a straitjacket that you cannot get rid of. But Rome presides over all the Churches with charity. We are always the Church, and we always recognize ourselves as a unique Church,” Bishop Tierrablanca concluded.

Tags: Catholic News, Turkey, Local Church, Ecclesiology, Bishop Tierrablanca, Vicariate Apostolic of Istanbul

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